The U.S. government has and will continue to raise issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) with the Modi government, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told reporters on Tuesday during a call to discuss the State Department’s annual designation of countries on the basis of their support for religious freedom in their territories.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan committee, had recommended that India be added to the ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ [CPC] list –countries with the most egregious violations of religious freedoms. The State Department, which makes its own annual determination of religious freedom across the world, had however rejected the recommendation on India when the list was announced earlier this week. Mr Brownback was responding to a question that asked about the changes to India’s citizenship laws and why India as not designated a CPC.
“There were several recommendations made by the commission that the Secretary did not follow, and this was one of them. And we watch the situation in India very closely. The Secretary’s traveled there multiple times. These issues have been raised in private discussions at the government – high government level, and they will continue to get raised,” Mr. Brownback said.
“I can’t go into the decision-making process that the Secretary went through. He’s well aware of a lot of the communal violence that’s happening in India; he’s well aware of the statute that has been enacted and the issues associated with the Modi government. And as I said, he’s raised it at the highest levels, but just decided at this point in time not to place them on a CPC or a Special Watch List.”
On Monday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had announced that Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan would be on the CPC list while Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia were placed on a Special Watch List for having engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”
Responding to another question on whether the U.S. was showing “favourtism” by placing Pakistan, but not India, on the CPC list, Mr. Brownback said that in Pakistan a lot of the religious freedom violations were done by the government, while in India some of it was done by the government but “much” of it was communal violence.
“Pakistan – a lot of their actions are done by the government. In India, some of them are done by the government and the law that was passed, and much of it’s communal violence. And then when that takes place, we try to determine whether or not has there been effective – been police enforcement, judicial action after communal violence takes place,” Mr. Brownback said.
“But Pakistan has – half of the world’s people that are locked up for apostasy or blasphemy are in Pakistani jails…And that doesn’t mean that India doesn’t have problems. The statute that you talked about or that was asked about earlier is a problem. The violence is a problem. We’ll continue to raise those issues, but those are some of the basis as to why Pakistan continues to be on the CPC list and India is not,” he said.